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Bridging history with giggles

The men on Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's cross-country expedition never let their underpants peep over plastic waisted jeans.

They probably didn't suck their thumbs in public or clip red and white barrettes into their hair. They certainly never changed into grizzly bears or trees upon command.

But Tuesday afternoon, in the more comfortable quarters of the Port Tampa Library, nearly 50 giggling children participated in a 21st century version of Lewis and Clark's 19th century journey.

And they loved it.

Donna Cutting's high-energy performance as Sacagawea, the Shoshone Indian who was the only woman to accompany Lewis and Clark, was only part of what riveted so many short attention spans.

After Cutting explained to the gathering of homeschoolers, neighborhood children and participants in the MacDill Air Force Base program that they all had to play men, she let them in on a little secret: They were the stars.

Gwen Daniel, who leads the MacDill program, became Lewis. Second-grader Nicholas Sobel was Clark. Both wore coonskin caps.

Cathryn Perry, an operations clerk for the program, received resounding applause for her role as a tree with a hole in its trunk. Gage Rhoades, a blond first-grader with round glasses, threw his arms wide open to show the size of the invisible fish he caught. Vincent Thompson, a third-grader with a round tummy, played a rock.

The "men" climbed into invisible canoes and rowed with invisible oars. When Cutting yelled, "Oh, my goodness, a bunch of beavers!" the beavers burst into giggles. When Cutting cried, "Oh, my goodness, a bunch of wolves!" the wolves promptly began to howl. And when Cutting whispered, "Be real quiet, because you see those buffalo over there . . . they"re going to stampede!!!" an amiable herd of buffalo shrieked with laughter, then began banging hands and feet on the carpet.

Six-year-old Lauren Palermini wore a blue feather in her blond hair and played Jumping Fish, Sacagawea's long-lost friend. She couldn't explain exactly what she had learned from the role (which included a dramatic reunification with Cutting) but she claimed to have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Juline Rose brought her three daughters, Hailey, 12, Emma, 7, and Sadie, 4. Rose homeschools the girls, and had already begun teaching them about westward expansion in preparation for a family vacation to the West Coast when she heard Sacagawea would be stopping by the library.

Emma, who wore a sweat shirt with white daisies on it, was thrilled by the performance.

"I got to row and pretend I'm in a boat," she said.

A week's worth of history

Several historical characters will come alive at Hillsborough libraries this week as part of Children's Book Week. For more information, call 273-3652 or go to

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